Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jersey Boys...

Great classic music, great classic gals, great classic cars, good ol' neighborhood boys, and Christopher Walken doing a perfect job of supporting actor without stealing it, capiche??

I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the story and the flashback. Everyone in it did a great job acting. You know where it's going to go, of course, but kick back, turn the volume up, and joyride it, baby.  8.5/10

Dan

Monday, June 2, 2014

Double Header: Chef and The Lunchbox



It was a foodie day that almost got off on the wrong foot, which is highly synchronistic with both of these films. In fact, there were several synchronicities running through the day, which I'll mention after my ratings.

First, we had breakfast at Maxfield's, a local Greek family-style restaurant in Lombard, IL. I had a Greek salad, which was good and healthy. However, typically in these type of restaurants, you have to tell them NOT to put anchovies on the salad if you don't want them. (Note to Greek restaurants: train your wait staff to ask about the anchovies. Otherwise we love you.) HERE, however, you have to tell them TO put the anchovies on. As if that's not already singing the latest restaurant hit, "Corners Where I Cut, Corners Where I Bleed," I happened to specifically ask them TO put the anchovies on. It has taken me years to get used to fishy and salty at the same time, and I'm trying hard to eat healthy and tame the waist. They forgot the anchovies. Turn up the volume on your tear-jerker much? I had to wait to eat my salad because I still need to eat the anchovies with other strong flavors like cucumber or bell pepper. On top of that, my wife thought her egg breakfast was so blah, she only ate a quarter of it. Beautifully remodeled, Maxfield's, but I know you're capable of a better game than that. We'll give you a little time to step it up before we come back. Rating: 4/10

After saying so long to our Sunday morning brunch buds Jim & Bill, we rode over to Glen Ellyn and killed an hour at Starbucks waiting to see Chef, our first flick of the day. I killed most of it in line to order and then to get our drinks, just because they were insanely busy, but Saren got some reading in.

Downtown Glen Ellyn is as pretty an old downtown as you could ever want to see, and it was sunny and 89 degrees, so it felt like a beautiful Summer day.

The Glen Art Theater is an old Vaudeville theatre chopped up into four movie screens in the oddest way. It is dark, and in one of the current theaters there are a couple of seats for nappers, because you can only see half the screen. In another, there is a long, narrow hall that you must walk through in order to enter that has a floor closely related to that place with the gravity anomaly, leaving you in a constant state of rolling tilt until you arrive. The seats are old enough that there are no cupholders. You avoid sitting near the walls because the cloth covering them is so old, you fear it might disintegrate in a puff of choking dust if you touch it. However, they got a grant to upgrade their equipment to the latest digital tech, they sell their used marquee posters reasonably, they have great popcorn, and they get the best art films around. The place is like a musty old treasure that you love and treat gently, and their ticket prices are very reasonable.
Chef: I loved this flick. It's about a dad who was an up-and-coming young chef in his early days, but is under serious stress in his relationships, from his son and ex-wife to his boss and the food critic who originally endorsed him. It is also a lesson in why you should understand social media before using it, and why businesses and organizations must. Clearly his kitchen staff love him, but the atmosphere is explosive. However, what I adore about this movie, aside from all the heart, love, beautiful, beautiful scenery, amazing food, joyriding, and awesome food porn, is that not. a. single. incidence. of. gunpowder. was. used. Not a bullet, not a bomb. It was actually a great story. (Another synchronicity for the day) There were a lot of big names in this, and touches of great music. The big names did teamwork well, instead of stumbling over each other. Rating: 10/10

Lunch at Made In Italy Trattoria: We came in right after they opened (4-10pm, they are a dinner restaurant) and the place has the look and feel of a traditional small Italian restaurant done upscale. The manager (owner?) waited on us personally, (which was synchronistic with a scene in the above film but better) and was very attentive and helpful. Small yhings everywhere reminded me of my Italian grandparents' home, but it would be unfair of me to compare any restaurant food to the golden memory of Noni's cooking. The salami and prosciutto hanging above gave ne a positive flashback to be sure. The food was delicious and so was the chianti and gelato. It wasn't a food-truck cubano, but it was damn good food. I had eggplant lasagne and a side of Italian sausage in marinara, Saren had tilapia limone. The prices were Western suburbs dinner prices, so not cheap, but not on the high end of that scale, maybe three-quarters of the way up. Rating: 9/10 and definitely worth going.


The Lunchbox: Number one, I want one of those lunchboxes!! They are cool!

The traffic and the lunchbox system in India are both impressive. The technology and infrastructure not so much, but are interesting to see. In wonderful synchronicity with Chef, this Baliwood flick dealt with aging with grace and dignity vs. not, the value of human relationships and connection in life, fidelity and its lack, and the stresses of career and loneliness. It is beautifully-done, and takes its subjects seriously. Though there are humorous and odd moments, it is not a comedy and most definitely not clumsy. In fact, it is extremely agile. The lack of explosive violence and inclusion of well-told and substantive storyline are also synchronistic with the first film, and the home-cooked Indian food looked really good on the stove. Both films are beautifully shot and visually rich, and this one has the novelty of another culture added. This is a high-quality film as good as anything out of Hollywood in the genre. Go. See. Enjoy. Rating: 10/10

It wound up a gourmet-delicious kind of day.

Dan

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Godzilla

Oh, no, there goes...San Francisco?? Honolulu? Some Japanese city I've never heard of? THESE monsters are real globe-trotters! NOWHERE is safe!

This film does a wonderful job of keeping the look and feel of the original monster movies like Godzilla, Mothra, etcetera, while adding color and modern effects. It was downright FUN, and even my wife loved it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the retro opening scenes, and thought that the fringe- science theories the "professor" type characters espoused reflected just enough modern scientific understanding to keep the corniness in proper balance.

Acting: great, but the "deer-in-headlights" expression looked like a contagious facial expression. Almost every actor in every scene was wearing it at some point. They must have had a group session practicing that look!

The little kids in the movie were perfect. Of course, the drama factor was high, and the military looked helpless as was obligatory, but the planes, ships, tanks, helicopters, etc looked real instead of like the toys from the classic films.

In all, the film respects the tradition of the franchise, and was a delight for me as a fan of the originals.

We saw it in 3D, and parts of it were worth it.

Go. Take popcorn. If you are a Godzilla fan, enjoy! This is a treat.

9/10 because I love Godzilla movies, and this IS one. Hats off to the director.

PS: Hiding behind cars, soldier boys? Really? That part was laughable...but the flick left me with a big popcorn grin.

Dan

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

C2E2 2014


Golly gee whiz, Clark, this convention has gotten huge!



Seriously, it's now taking up as much space in McCormick place as the Chicago Auto Show, which is the largest in the world.



My one real knock was, with three times the space and visitors as last year, they still had a dinky little counter for freebie items like preview comics and novelty items. Cmon! You could have two or three of those going instead of making people climb over each other!



Still, it was COOL. There are tons and tons of people in costumes, some of them are VERY good. The David Tenet Doctor Who and lady Weeping angel were just awesome, and as you can see, our svelte Superman and Wonder Woman were a beautiful couple.



There must have been forty autograph booths, including Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame.
I think there were at least fifteen booths selling actual comics, and at least a hundred selling merchandise of all sorts. I picked up four Marvel and DC poster-size cover prints signed by the original artist, Neil Adams, right on the spot. I got the cover of Galactus, the original Green Arrow & Green Lantern team-up, and in honor of my Honey, Wonder woman.


There were about twenty tattoo artists doing super ink.


I'm pretty sure they had sixty or more artists' booths.



There were panel discussions, lectures, and art demonstrations.



The ice cream cart was quite popular.



I went with three of my friends: Tom, Thom, and Robert. We met at Uncle Bub's barbeque in Westmont (where the rib tips are like a religious experience) and drove into the city together after eating like hungry dwarves! We had quite an adventure together.



Still, my favorite is watching the people in costume, and they are still gracious about posing for photos. (A C2E2 tradition)
All in all, it was a thoroughly fun afternoon.

Now, off in the Tardis, before a Dalek gets me!



Dan

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Transcendance:

Johhny Depp gets back to serious acting. So does everyone else. The acting in this is superb, and the cinematography is pretty damn good, too. This is a serious and pleasantly deep sci-fi flick set in current day. DEFINITELY keep your thinking cap on, because this is an exquisitely sophisticated plot that requires serious consideration and will leave you pondering some of the questions it poses well after. I consider this film a must-see, especially for technology buffs and Ray Kurzweill (?spelling) fans. I give it a 8.5 10, and it would've been higher yet if there weren't a few slight holes in the plot, and I do mean slight. (After further review, what I thought were plot holes must be intentional. Rating revised to 11/10)

**However, this film requires a much deeper and involved discussion than my usual brief review, and that requires spoilers. I strongly encourage you to see the film before reading below the dotted line.**

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Singularity. And I don't mean astrophysics, I mean sentient artificial intelligence beyond that of human beings. This is a powerful depiction of that potential with extraordinary vision. It also dives deep into the likely human reaction to that possibility, and at the bottom of  that dive is where the questions raised by this film will haunt you.

I'm not just discussing the philosophy surrounding singularity's possible outcomes here, I am more discussing the film's treatment of it, and the perceptoon left in the viewing audiences' minds after seeing this film. Some viewers will see this at its true depth, and many will only see the adrenaline-soaked surface reaction of the antagonists to singularity portrayed in the film.

Obviously it looks like ordinary people are being turned into mind-controlled and fully-networked "super humans," and the first assumption is that thwy have no free will. This is done by injecting nanites into the body. Given our conditioning from so many science fiction stories and films that are dark and forboding, or even severely dystopian or exrinction-level apocalyptic, this isn't surprising.

However, when I go back over the film in my mind, the only people who didn't explicitly consent to conversion were unconsious and on the verge of death. The nanites also repair any physical disability within a minute or two, and convey extreme physical strength.

Where I thought there was a plot hole is in the part where these nanites had spread over the entire surface of the Earth in rainwater. How were there any unconverted humans left to fight the AI nanite horde if it was so much like Star Trek's Borg? Resistance should be impossible if every drop of water on Earth was filled with nanites, because our bodies are 95% water. Every human on Earth should've been teeming with nanites. Hell, Johnny Depp could use any of the converted humans to speak and watch. It was clearly a collective consciousness.

The answer is clear upon reflection. The AI didn't kill a single human, not even the ones fighting it with violence. The Hive mind must be a collection of networked consciousnesses. When Johnny's character spoke through the super humans, it was because they LET him.

Answer: free will is still present. No one was uploaded to the cloud that didn't want to be. Even filled in every cell with nanites, the people fighting the AI weren't converted, because the AI originated from a decent human being with a deeply ethical character. The AI could have taken these people over at any point it wanted to...and created a peaceful paradise right after. Score one for my wife; human paranoia was the only reason there was a fight at all, and free will was very much alive in the machine. Cyber love is alive.

Expect a sequel. It's quite worth it.

And pass the popcorn.

Dan

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier...

..Amazing special effects. Decent plot with some good twists. Wonderful acting. You actually get the feel of Cap being from that lost "polite era."  One of the best Marvel flicks ever done. If you love comic books...er, graphic novels, you will really enjoy this. Be glad. Be very glad that Hollywood special effects are finally able to do justice to these stories. 9/10

Dan